"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
"We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross,
You have redeemed the world."|
– St. Francis of Assisi
January 13 will be the 94th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This year, the focus is on young migrants. Pope Benedict XVI's message for the Day, dated October 18, follows:
". . .The vast globalization process underway around the world brings a need for mobility, which also induces many young people to emigrate and live far from their families and their countries. The result is that many times the young people endowed with the best intellectual resources leave their countries of origin, while in the countries that receive the migrants, laws are in force that make their actual insertion difficult. In fact, the phenomenon of emigration is becoming ever more widespread and includes a growing number of people from every social condition. Rightly, therefore, the public institutions, humanitarian organizations, and also the Catholic Church are dedicating many of their resources to helping these people in difficulty.
"For the young migrants, the problems of the so-called 'difficulty of dual belonging' seem to be felt in a particular way: on the one hand, they feel a strong need to not lose their culture of origin, while on the other, the understandable desire emerges in them to be inserted organically into the society that receives them, but without this implying a complete assimilation and the resulting loss of their ancestral traditions. Among the young people, there are also girls who fall victim more easily to exploitation, moral forms of blackmail, and even abuses of all kinds. What can we say, then, about the adolescents, the unaccompanied minors that make up a category at risk among those who ask for asylum? These boys and girls often end up on the street abandoned to themselves and prey to unscrupulous exploiters who often transform them into the object of physical, moral, and sexual violence.
"Next, looking more closely at the sector of forced migrants, refugees, and the victims of human trafficking, we unhappily find many children and adolescents too. On this subject it is impossible to remain silent before the distressing images of the great refugee camps present in different parts of the world. How can we not think that these little beings have come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as the others? And, at the same time, how can we not remember that childhood and adolescence are fundamentally important stages for the development of a man and a woman that require stability, serenity, and security? These children and adolescents have only had as their life experience the permanent, compulsory 'camps' where they are segregated, far from inhabited towns, with no possibility normally to attend school. How can they look to the future with confidence? While it is true that much is being done for them, even greater commitment is still needed to help them by creating suitable hospitality and formative structures.
"Precisely from this perspective the question is raised of how to respond to the expectations of the young migrants? What can be done to help them? Of course, it is necessary to aim first of all at support for the family and schools. But how complex the situations are, and how numerous the difficulties these young people encounter in their family and school contexts! In families, the traditional roles that existed in the countries of origin have broken down, and a clash is often seen between parents still tied to their culture and children quickly acculturated in the new social contexts. Likewise, the difficulty should not be underestimated which the young people find in getting inserted into the educational course of study in force in the country where they are hosted. Therefore, the scholastic system itself should take their conditions into consideration and provide specific formative paths of integration for the immigrant boys and girls that are suited to their needs. The commitment will also be important to create a climate of mutual respect and dialogue among all the students in the classrooms based on the universal principles and values that are common to all cultures. Everyone's commitment — teachers, families, and students — will surely contribute to helping the young migrants to face in the best way possible the challenge of integration and offer them the possibility to acquire what can aid their human, cultural, and professional formation. This holds even more for the young refugees for whom adequate programs will have to be prepared, both in the scholastic and the work contexts, in order to guarantee their preparation and provide the necessary bases for a correct insertion into the new social, cultural, and professional world.
"The Church looks with very particular attention at the world of migrants and asks those who have received a Christian formation in their countries of origin to make this heritage of faith and evangelical values bear fruit in order to offer a consistent witness in the different life contexts. Precisely in this regard, I invite the ecclesial host communities to welcome the young and very young people with their parents with sympathy, and to try to understand the vicissitudes of their lives and favor their insertion.
"Then, among the migrants, as I wrote in last year's Message, there is one category to consider in a special way: the students from other countries who because of their studies, are far from home. Their number is growing constantly: they are young people who need a specific pastoral care because they are not just students, like all the rest, but also temporary migrants. They often feel alone under the pressure of their studies and sometimes they are also constricted by economic difficulties. The Church, in her maternal concern, looks at them with affection and tries to put specific pastoral and social interventions into action that will take the great resources of their youth into consideration. It is necessary to help them find a way to open up to the dynamism of interculturality and be enriched in their contact with other students of different cultures and religions. For young Christians, this study and formation experience can be a useful area for the maturation of their faith, a stimulus to be open to the universalism that is a constitutive element of the Catholic Church.
"Dear young migrants, prepare yourselves to build together your young peers a more just and fraternal society by fulfilling your duties scrupulously and seriously towards your families and the State. Be respectful of the laws and never let yourselves be carried away by hatred and violence. Try instead to be protagonists as of now of a world where understanding and solidarity, justice, and peace will reign. To you, in particular, young believers, I ask you to profit from your period of studies to grow in knowledge and love of Christ. Jesus wants you to be his true friends, and for this it is necessary for you to cultivate a close relationship with Him constantly in prayer and docile listening to his Word. He wants you to be his witnesses, and for this it is necessary for you to be committed to living the Gospel courageously and expressing it in concrete acts of love of God and generous service to your brothers and sisters. The Church needs you too and is counting on your contribution. You can play a very providential role in the current context of evangelization. Coming from different cultures, but all united by belonging to the one Church of Christ, you can show that the Gospel is alive and suited to every situation; it is an old and ever new message. It is a word of hope and salvation for the people of all races and cultures, of all ages and eras.
"To Mary, the Mother of all humanity, and to Joseph, her most chaste spouse, who were both refugees together with Jesus in Egypt, I entrust each one of you, your families, those who take care of the vast world of young migrants in various ways, the volunteers and pastoral workers that are by your side with their willingness and friendly support.
"May the Lord always be close to you and your families so that together you can overcome the obstacles and the material and spiritual difficulties you encounter on your way. I accompany these wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing for each one of you and for those who are dear to you."
Pope Benedict XVI stressed the importance of treating the aged sick with great respect and love during a November 7 meeting of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care in Vatican City. The theme of the meeting was pastoral care of the aged sick. Pope Benedict XVI said:
". . .This is a central aspect of pastoral health care today, which, thanks to the increase in life span, concerns an ever greater population who have multiple needs, but at the same time indubitable human and spiritual resources. . .
The Pope continued: "If it is true that human life in every phase is worthy of the maximum respect, in some sense it is even more so when it is marked by age and sickness. Old age constitutes the last step of our earthly pilgrimage, which has distinct phases, each with its own lights and shadows. One may ask: does a human being who moves toward a rather precarious condition due to age and sickness still have a reason to exist? Why continue to defend life when the challenge of illness becomes dramatic, and why not instead accept euthanasia as a liberation? Is it possible to live illness as a human experience to accept with patience and courage?
The person called to accompany the aged sick must confront these questions, especially when there seems to be no possibility of healing. Today's efficiency mentality often tends to marginalize our suffering brothers and sisters, as if they were only a 'weight' and 'a problem' for society. The person with a sense of human dignity knows that they are to respect and sustain them while they face serious difficulties linked to their condition. Indeed, recourse to the use of palliative care when necessary is correct, which, even though it cannot heal, can relieve the pain caused by illness.
Alongside the indispensable clinical treatment, however, it is always necessary to show a concrete capacity to love, because the sick need understanding, comfort, and constant encouragement and accompaniment. The elderly in particular must be helped to travel in a mindful and human way on the last stretch of earthly existence in order to prepare serenely for death, which - we Christians know - is a passage toward the embrace of the Heavenly Father, full of tenderness and mercy.
I would like to add that this necessary pastoral solicitude for the aged sick cannot fail to involve families, too. Generally, it is best to do what is possible so that the families themselves accept them and assume the duty with thankful affection, so that the aged sick can pass the final period of their life in their home and prepare for death in a warm family environment. Even when it would become necessary to be admitted to a health-care structure, it is important that the patient's bonds with his loved ones and with his own environment are not broken. In the most difficult moments of sickness, sustained by pastoral care, the patient is to be encouraged to find the strength to face his hard trial in prayer and with the comfort of the sacraments. He is to be surrounded by brethren in the faith who are ready to listen and to share his sentiments. Truly, this is the true objective of 'pastoral' care for the aged, especially when they are sick, and more so if gravely sick.
On many occasions, my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, who especially during his sickness offered an exemplary testimony of faith and courage, exhorted scientists and doctors to undertake research to prevent and treat illnesses linked to old age without ever ceding to the temptation to have recourse to practices that shorten the life of the aged and sick, practices that would turn out to be, in fact, forms of euthanasia. May scientists, researchers, doctors, nurses, as well as politicians, administrative and pastoral workers never forget that the temptation of euthanasia appears as 'one of the more alarming symptoms of the "culture of death," which is advancing above all in prosperous societies' (Evangelium Vitae, n. 64). Man's life is a gift of God that we are all called to guard always. This duty also belongs to health-care workers, whose specific mission is to be 'ministers of life' in all its phases, particularly in those marked by fragility connected with infirmity. A general commitment is needed so that human life is respected, not only in Catholic hospitals, but in every treatment facility.
It is faith in Christ that enlightens Christians regarding sickness and the condition of the aged person, as in every other event and phase of existence. Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave human suffering a transcendent value and meaning. Faced with suffering and sickness, believers are invited to remain calm because nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of Christ. In him and with him it is possible to face and overcome every physical and spiritual trial and to experience, exactly in the moment of greatest weakness, the fruits of Redemption. The Risen Lord manifests himself to those who believe in him as the Living One who transforms human existence, giving even sickness and death a salvific sense. . ."
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican representative, made a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation in the Middle east in a November 8 address to a meeting of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in New York. He said:
"My delegation thanks the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for this report, and commends her and her staff for their work, in spite of the continued violence and military activity in the area in which they operate.
"The seemingly endless list of difficulties and differences separating Israelis and Palestinians can lead us to ignore the underlying fundamental questions which have plagued this region for far too long, such as the lack of persistent political will to reach a permanent solution.
"At the heart of the matter remains the problem of injustice. To postpone endlessly the resolution of this conflict by a refusal to negotiate and to compromise reasonably, by indecision or by a willingness to maintain the status quo, is to perpetuate injustice. Whether such a mindset is deliberate or not does not alter the reality on the ground, namely, innocent people and entire families on all sides continue to suffer terribly and infrastructures are destroyed even before they are ready for use. . .
"The centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the continuing instability in the Middle East and its impact on the whole international community cannot be ignored. Solving it will greatly contribute to ending other questions in the region and to greater understanding among the peoples of the world.
"In this regard, my delegation remains convinced that the two-state solution has the best chance to settle the crisis. Bringing this solution to reality is not the primary responsibility of the Quartet, but of the parties directly concerned and the neighboring countries who have immediate interests in the whole question. While the international community can only do so much in providing all the support needed to bring together those in conflict, it is indispensable that the parties must set aside the pretense of peacemaking and start full negotiations on the two-state solution. My delegation earnestly hopes that the international conference planned for the end of this month may move the peace process towards this end, towards the definition of a realistic accord that the parties will be determined to implement.
"We all know that this is much easier said than done. The accumulated acts of injustice and violence across decades have resulted in deeply rooted recriminations and rage among peoples in the area, fueling the vicious cycle of violent retaliations. In a state of constant alarm and permanent anguish, peoples resort to forming communities in mutual isolation. This state of things makes a lasting solution much more difficult to find, because it is antithetical to building relationships and mutual trust which are necessary in any peace process and peaceful coexistence.
"My delegation encourages groups within both the Israeli and Palestinian civil societies which, sharing the same loss and fear, reach out to one another to offer and receive forgiveness and reconciliation. We appeal not only to authorities, but to the entire Israeli, Palestinian, and neighboring peoples, to consider how much this disposition of mutual empathy can bridge their otherwise mutually exclusive and contradictory claims which have so far prevented talks to come to fruition. Let us learn from peoples who have succeeded in putting an end to their strife. Patient dialogue, persevering trust, the overcoming of religious and cultural prejudices, and a manifest desire of entire communities for peace have brought the restoration of harmony in many countries previously devastated by hatred and violence. For this reason, my delegation remains convinced that the different religious confessions in the Holy Land can make a significant contribution to resolving the conflict.
"Finally, in the hope that the many problems of the region will at last be resolved by negotiation and dialogue, my delegation further underlines that a lasting solution must include the status of the Holy City of Jerusalem. In light of the numerous incidents of violence and challenges to free movement posed by the Security Wall, the Holy See renews its support for internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the City of Jerusalem the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the Holy Places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities (A/RES/ES-10/2). . ."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
Sit back for a minute and try to recall what were the "hot" political issues 35 years ago. What were the areas of concern on which voters would decide whom they would help elect to public office? Now, if you can remember any, which one of those "hot" issues is still of importance?
Since 1973, in every presidential election, the issue of legalized abortion has played a major factor in determining how a substantial number of voters would cast their ballot. In spite of all the news media hype that the issue of abortion was once and for all decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, the issue of abortion has already dominated this year's debate of the Republican presidential candidates. It has made some of the candidates flip-flop, re-explain their last explanation, reverse themselves, and apologize. Candidates who have consistently espoused pro-life positions and/or consistently voted pro-life find no difficulty in expressing their position.
Although there are many important issues facing our nation, some define what type of nation we will be.
As people of faith, who believe in the Judeo-Christian principles of the sanctity of all human life, there are some positions on issues we must adhere to in order to be faithful to those basic moral principles. On the other hand, there are other issues on which reasonable Christian minds can differ, and do.
Issues such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, or so-called "same-sex" unions involve acts which are intrinsically evil, and are always, under any and all circumstances, morally unacceptable. These non-negotiable issues are so crucial that if a candidate supports legalization and/or funding for such immoral acts, he disqualifies himself from receiving the support, vote, and contributions of true pro-lifers.
If a candidate who agrees with you on all the issues about which you are most concerned suddenly announces that he is in favor of legalizing child abuse, would he not disqualify himself from your vote and support? Even though there are other issues of concern, someone favoring the legalization and/or funding of the intrinsically evil act of abortion should disqualify himself from our vote or support of his election, no matter what position he takes on other issues.
Issues such as immigration, capital punishment, the War in Iraq, healthcare, environmental issues, etc., are issues on which reasonable minds can differ. Whether or not the state should impose capital punishment for serious crimes is an issue involving prudential judgment. Even though a number of religious figures have called for the ending of capital punishment, the Catholic Church for 2,000 years has taught that the state, under proper safeguards, can impose capital punishment for serious crimes. It is a prudential judgment whether capital punishment should be abolished, an issue on which many in the Catholic Church have long disagreed.
There is no Catholic position on what laws a country should enact concerning immigration. Should those who have come into our country illegally be granted amnesty? Should measures be taken to prevent people from entering our country illegally? Should drivers' licenses be granted to illegal aliens? These are all questions on which reasonable Christians can and do disagree.
Any group which fails to distinguish between disqualifying, non-negotiable issues and issues of prudential judgment on which reasonable Christian minds can differ does a disservice to the pro-life movement by equating unequals. By this way, someone who favors the legalization of the killing of the unborn child is made to look as though he is "partially" pro-life since he opposes capital punishment. On the other hand, a candidate who supports the criminalization of the act of abortion is made to look as though he is not quite 100 percent pro-life, since he supports capital punishment for serious criminal offenses.
What is also a great disservice to the pro-life movement is when those who claim to be national leaders of the pro-life movement endorse candidates who are not pro-life against candidates who are.
It was almost unbelievable that televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the Republican presidential primary. Giuliani has always espoused the pro-abortion position, stating, "I ultimately do believe in a woman's right of choice."
Last November, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) announced it was endorsing former Tennessee U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, which resulted in some of its state affiliates claiming that they were not. Even though as a U.S. senator, Thompson had voted pro-life, he said that he could not endorse a human life amendment, which has been a primary goal of the pro-life movement. He also stated he would oppose a constitutional amendment against "gay marriages" and was opposed to the congressional attempt to help save Terri Schiavo's life.
It was sad that Thompson even used pro-abortion language on national TV when he suggested pro-lifers wanted young girls to go to jail: "I do not think it is a wise thing to criminalize young girls and perhaps their parents as aiders and abettors." Why would Thompson, if he was truly pro-life, accuse pro-lifers of such action, when there has never been any anti-abortion legislation proposed anywhere in the country that would impose criminal penalties upon women who had an abortion? In fact, the laws prior to Roe v. Wade penalized the abortionists, and not the women they victimized.
These types of endorsements send a message from these so-called pro-life leaders that an abortion is really not even an important issue, much less a non-negotiable, disqualifying issue.
If Americans do not make the issue of abortion the ultimate issue, will America survive?
"Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or old, no matter how healthy, handicapped, or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn. May God bless you all. God Bless America!" Pope John Paul II, to the people of the United States.
Two recent films exemplify vastly different directions in current filmmaking. Bella was the work of newcomer Mexican writer/director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde. The Golden Compass is based on Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass), the first volume in the His Dark Materials trilogy by British atheist Philip Pullman.
Compass is directed by Chris Weitz, noted for About a Boy about a selfish liar, Down to Earth about reincarnation, and American Pie about juvenile fornication.
Bella started in only 456 theaters, distributed by Newmarket Films which also handled The Passion of the Christ, but soon became the number one Top Rated Movie on Yahoo, Fandango, and the New York Times readers poll. The Golden Compass with much publicity opened in 22 countries. It comes from New Line Cinema which brought us The Wedding Crashers, The Number 23, Snakes on a Plane and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
"Bella," means "beautiful one," but viewers don't learn its full meaning until the last few minutes of the movie. The so-called golden compass, also known as an alethiometer, appears to operate ouija board-like, but as the film's tagline says, "It tells the truth. As for how to read it, you'll have to learn by yourself."
Bella subtlely promotes the magisterium's teachings without being preachy. As Michael Medved described it, "an unforgettable experience! A celebration of family, food, music and life-affirming values." The Golden Compass on the other hand, portrays the magisterium as the enemy of free will.
Pullman's Magisterium, Cole Smiley explains, "is still a thinly veiled stand-in for the church, what with its cathedralish headquarters and its members' priestly robes and talk of 'heretic.' But it's also, ultimately an asinine approach because, by stripping this anti-religion critique of any overt specificity, the filmmakers wind up watering down the only weighty thematic substance that might have made the film worth watching in the first place."
Bella promotes the adoption of Manny and Bella by Jose's loving family. Monteverde's own new bride, Ali Landry, plays the part of Celia. The Golden Compass promotes Lyra Belacqua's adoption of a beastly familiar, Pantalaimon, said to mean "all-merciful."
Eduardo Verastegui, who plays Jose, spoke at the White House as the United Nations unofficial ambassador for adoption. "Families have changed their lives forever after adopting a child," he said. "Because it's not only that a family can give a child a home, but they themselves would have the gift of motherhood and fatherhood. So in adoption everybody wins." Stephen Holden of The New York times called Bella "A bear-hugging embrace of sweetness and light," while Pullman's armored bear or "Panserbjorne," Lorek Byrnison, Nick Schager says, "does little other than drink whiskey, fight, and roar in countless close-ups." With their Scandinavian names like Ragner Sturlusson and Iofur Raknison, they seem more like bearskin-clad berserkers than polar bears. Lyra's supposedly evil uncle is named Ariel after the chief angel-guardian whose name means "vow of God."
When the film rights of Pullman's trilogy was bought five years ago after the success of the Lord of the Rings adaptation, the Family Life Team predicted it would be the successor to Harry Potter. Like J.K. Rowling's series, the film version is toned down from the books and each book of His Dark Materials series gets darker and darker.
Of the three books, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass) introduces Lyra, The Subtle Knife introduces Will Parry, and the Amber Spyglass ends with the climax in which they kill Yahweh. "My books are about killing God" and "undermining the basis of Christian belief," Pullman has openly admitted.
He has been called the writer "atheists would have been praying for if they prayed" by Peter Hitchens. In The Golden Compass: Unmasked, Bill Donahue of the Catholic League points out Pullman, speaking through one of his characters, says, "Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."
Bella won the People's Choice award at the Toronto film festival and the Crystal Heart and Grand Prize at the Heartland film festival.
Both films leave their story's conclusion to the viewer's imagination. We can easily fill in from the touching final scene that Nina deals with motherhood both as daughter and as mother. The Golden Compass as well as its sequel, will leave viewers hanging since it is, after all, a trilogy.
Besides the rest of the trilogy there is planned a video game, a prequel, Once Upon A Time in the North, the companion book, Lyra's Oxford, and the sequel, The Book of Dust. There are His Dark Materials action figures in the works including roaring Panserbjorn, but none but pro-life activists for Bella.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed a conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome on November 22 and expressed appreciation for the organization's efforts "to eliminate the scourge of global hunger."
The Pope's address follows: "As you gather for the Thirty-fourth Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican. Our meeting today is part of a tradition reaching back to the time when your Organization first set up its headquarters in Rome. I am happy to have yet another occasion to express appreciation for your work to eliminate the scourge of global hunger.
"As you know, the Holy See has always maintained a keen interest in every effort made to rid the human family of famine and malnutrition, in the awareness that resolving these problems requires not only extraordinary dedication and highly refined technical training, but above all a genuine spirit of cooperation uniting all men and women of good will.
"This noble goal calls for unwavering acknowledgement of the inherent dignity of the human person at every stage of life. All forms of discrimination, and particularly those that thwart agricultural development, must be rejected since they constitute a violation of the basic right of every person to be 'free from hunger.' These convictions are in fact demanded by the very nature of your work on behalf of the common good of humanity, as expressed so eloquently by your motto - fiat panis - words that are also at the heart of the Gospel which the Church is called to proclaim.
"The data gathered through your research and the extent of your programs for supporting the global endeavor to develop the world's natural resources clearly testify to one of the most troubling paradoxes of our time: the relentless spread of poverty in a world that is also experiencing unprecedented prosperity, not only in the economic sphere but also in the rapidly developing fields of science and technology.
"The obstacles standing in the way of overcoming this tragic situation can at times be discouraging. Armed conflicts, outbreaks of disease, adverse atmospheric and environmental conditions, and the massive forced displacement of peoples: all these obstacles should serve as a motivation to redouble our efforts to provide each person with his or her daily bread. For her part, the Church is convinced that the quest for more effective technical solutions in an ever-changing and expanding world calls for far-sighted programs embodying enduring values grounded in the inalienable dignity and rights of the human person.
"FAO continues to play an essential role in relieving world hunger, while reminding the international community of the pressing need constantly to update methods and to design strategies adequate to today's challenges. I express my appreciation for the generous efforts made in this regard by all associated with your Organization. The Holy See has closely followed the activities of FAO over the last sixty years and is confident that the significant results already achieved will continue. FAO was one of the first international organizations with which the Holy See established regular diplomatic relations. On November 23, 1948, during the Fourth Session of your Conference, the Holy See was granted the unique status of 'Permanent Observer,' thus ensuring its right to participate in the activities of FAO's various departments and affiliated agencies in a way consonant with the Church's religious and moral mission.
"The united effort of the international community to eliminate malnutrition and promote genuine development necessarily calls for clear structures of management and oversight, and a realistic assessment of the resources needed to address a wide range of different situations. It requires the contribution of every member of society - individuals, volunteer organizations, businesses, and local and national governments - always with due regard for those ethical and moral principles which are the common patrimony of all people and the foundation of all social life. The international community must always avail itself of this precious treasure of common values since genuine and lasting development can only be furthered in a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to share professional and technical resources.
"Indeed, today more than ever, the human family needs to find the tools and strategies capable of overcoming the conflicts caused by social differences, ethnic rivalries, and the gross disparity in levels of economic development. Mankind is thirsting for true and lasting peace – a peace that can only come about if individuals, groups at every level, and government leaders cultivate habits of responsible decision-making rooted firmly in the fundamental principles of justice. It is therefore essential that societies dedicate their energies to educating authentic peacemakers: this is a task which falls in a particular way to organizations like your own, which cannot fail to recognize as the foundation of authentic justice the universal destination of the goods of creation.
"Religion, as a potent spiritual force for healing the wounds of conflict and division, has its own distinctive contribution to make in this regard, especially through the work of forming minds and hearts in accordance with a vision of the human person.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, technical progress, important as it is, is not everything. Such progress must be placed within the wider context of the integral good of the human person. It must constantly draw nourishment from the common patrimony of values which can inspire concrete initiatives aimed at a more equitable distribution of spiritual and material goods. As I wrote in my encyclical Deus Caritas Est, 'those who are in a position to help others will realize that, in doing so, they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own' (No. 35). This principle has a special application to the world of agriculture, in which the work of those who are often considered the 'lowliest' members of society should be duly acknowledged and esteemed.
"FAO's outstanding activity on behalf of development and food security clearly points to the correlation between the spread of poverty and the denial of basic human rights, beginning with the fundamental right to adequate nutrition. Peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights are inseparably linked. The time has come to ensure, for the sake of peace, that no man, woman, and child will ever be hungry again!
"Dear friends, in renewing my esteem for your work, I assure you of my prayers that Almighty God will enlighten and guide your deliberations, so that the activity of FAO will respond ever more fully to the human family's yearning for solidarity, justice, and peace."
VATICAN CITY – August 15, 2008, will mark the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Mulieris dignitatem, (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). This letter was released during the 1988 Marian Year and followed the teaching of the Second Vatican Council which encouraged greater participation by women in the life of the Church as well as in social and cultural life. Pope Paul VI and the Synod of Bishops further studied the role of women. The Pontifical Council for the Laity called Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter "a milestone." In a statement, this Pontifical Council said:
". . .For the first time, a pontifical document was entirely dedicated to the topic of women. John Paul II proceeds with an anthropological analysis in the light of Revelation in order to derive, both from the first chapters of Genesis and from the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fundamental truths like the equal dignity of men and women created in the image of God, the unity of the two and the call to communion, the importance of complementarity and reciprocity between men and women, the appreciation of the feminine 'genius,' the figure of Mary as a model for women, and the total fulfillment of human beings called to holiness.
"It is an established fact that, twenty years after Mulieris dignitatem, the language and contents of the magisterium of John Paul II have not only been assimilated but they have also generated a perspective of renewed appreciation of women and a keener awareness of the importance of reciprocity between men and women. John Paul II laid the foundation for a new feminism and his reflection has brought a breath of fresh air to a culture often hurt by antagonistic tendencies in the man-woman relationship, a theme that was later developed in the Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world published in 2004 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"Benedict XVI in turn expressed and took up again the appreciation of the Church for the contribution of women. It is enough here to mention the catechesis in the general audience of February 14, 2007, dedicated to women and their ecclesial responsibility from the early Christian communities until today.
"On the twentieth anniversary of Mulieris dignitatem, the Pontifical Council for the Laity is again taking up this in-depth study of the relationship man-woman and the participation of women in the mission of the Church, with a conference on the theme: 'Woman and man, the humanum in its entirety.' It will be held in Rome from February 7 to 9, 2008, with the participation of around 250 people coming from the five continents. The main objectives of the Conference are to review the progress made over the past twenty years in the field of the advancement of women and the recognition of their dignity; to open up a reflection in the light of revelation on the new cultural paradigms and on the difficulties faced by Catholic women in living according to their identity and in collaborating in fruitful reciprocity with men in building up the Church and society; to remind women of the beauty of the vocation to holiness, encouraging them to respond to it with increasing awareness and, as players in the mission of the Church, to place at the service of the apostolate, family, workplace and culture, all the richness of the feminine 'genius'. . ."
Barisal, Bangladesh – With more roads open, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and its partner Caritas Bangladesh anticipate reaching 57,700 people (12,500 families) this week (November 20), with emergency food distributions as the first stage of a long-term recovery effort. CRS has committed $500,000 to the relief effort thus far.
"Thanks to ferries that are up and running and more roads being cleared, we're accessing areas that have yet to receive any aid. Some have been nearly flattened, and people are desperate. They are protecting their families with whatever is available, sleeping under bits of salvaged wood and twisted corrugated iron. Food is critical – whatever they took with them to the cyclone shelter has run out and they have nowhere to turn," said Cassie Dummett, CRS Bangladesh Country Manager in Barisal.
Today, CRS/Caritas started distributing food to 6,000 people in Kalapara. In the devastated areas around Barisal, CRS/Caritas distributions will reach 21,500 people in the next four days, with another 35,000 people set to receive food rations in the Khulna district by the end of the week. Distributions by CRS/Caritas began within the first 36 hours of the cyclone.
"In coastal areas, much of the land has been turned into ponds for prawn farming. People take loans from big businessmen to get started and now they have not only lost their sources of food and income, but are also hugely in debt. Women earned money from selling rice, weaving or fishing. Now they have nothing," said Dummett.
(Source: CRS press release)
Dhaka, Bangladesh – Ferries and traditional fishing boats have helped Catholic Relief Services (CRS)/Caritas manage food and emergency relief distributions for nearly 1,000 families so far living in Barisal district hardest hit by the cyclone, and where many roads have yet to be cleared.
"From Barisal city, I have taken two ferries over three hours, and now I will walk until I reach a river where I will take a country boat with no motor to cross into areas where we are distributing relief supplies. The need is so huge and ferries provide a special context for transport. With extremely low or extremely high tides, it is difficult to move," said Dr. Benedict Alo D'Rozario, director of CRS' partner, Caritas Bangladesh.
CRS/Caritas started food distributions on Saturday (November 17) in Kalapara subdistrict of Potuakhali district in Barisal. CRS has committed $500,000 to fund relief efforts. Food packages consist of 10 kg rice, 2 kg lentils, and 1 kg salt to last families for up to 10 days.
With urgent need for family shelter, CRS/Caritas is preparing to distribute tarpaulins, blankets, cooking pots, plates, buckets, and water containers to at least 10,000 families. Certain items such as plastic sheeting and vegetable oil are in short supply and will have to be transported from Dhaka.
Many homes were crushed under falling trees. Some areas report that 90% of trees have been uprooted. Caritas' volunteer network that has worked in the area for years is identifying the worst-affected families – those who had lost everything and who have nothing at all to eat. Districts with lower death tolls reflect the life saving effect of the cyclone shelters, roughly 2,000 of which have been constructed since 1991.
"However, little could be done to protect people's homes and livelihoods from the super cyclone's onslaught. The coastal area is very poor, and in many villages little remains to even show where houses used to exist," said Cassie Dummett, CRS Bangladesh Country Manager.
CRS is supporting a five-member assessment team of staff from Central and other Regional Offices (all trained in Sphere, Code of Conduct and assessment methods and checklists) who are carrying out efforts in Barisal and Khulna after quickly identifying local sources of food, suppliers and shopkeepers who could supply immediate food rations.
(Source: CRS press release)
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